As much as it all pains us when it happens, yes, employees can (and may) leave your company. It’s a fact of life and it can’t always be helped. They may retire, relocate, go back to school or simply, well, quit their job. However, it doesn’t always have to be the end of the world if you come prepared.
Once all is said and done, and their departure becomes inevitable, how can you ensure to make the most of the situation? Other than letting HR take care of termination processes, what are the things you can do to tie up all loose ends? Here are a few suggestions to ensure losing an employee doesn’t negatively impact your department or even your entire company.
Fix the leak
Good people are hard to come by. It’s difficult to see them go, especially when they are well-liked by their peers and contribute positively to the success of their team. As a result, colleagues can be in shock, thus negatively affecting morale. If an employee is not the first person to quit a particular department or team, this should be a red flag. We’ve all heard the saying that “people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their managers”. Perhaps it is time to reevaluate management practices before more employees quit. Are there recurring issues that have to be fixed? Does a middle manager with a bad attitude compromise an entire department? Are good entry-level employees seemingly leaving in droves lately?
A departure is a good opportunity to make some changes that will hopefully prevent more resignations in the future. Sometimes, the issue isn’t obvious. At other times, a resignation can be brought upon by a wrong person-fit for a particular job. But you’ll never know until you take the time to evaluate the situation, right? ;)
Prevent a digital disaster
Cut access to all company accounts and social media as soon as possible. You don’t want to risk data being lost, compromised or erased – nor your company’s dirty laundry aired out to the world. After all, there have been a slew of corporate disasters on Twitter and Facebook these past few years, where disgruntled employees seriously misbehaved. Make sure you ask for all passwords, devices and company property before the terminated worker leaves for good.
Understand that employees may leave with sensitive information or data, yet take the required steps to avoid a potential debacle. In the digital era, it is so easy to duplicate files, save emails or store content on a USB drive.
On transitioning responsibilities: plan ahead
If you have the luxury, start way in advance to ensure a successful transition. If the person who is leaving is retiring or going on maternity leave, find the time to hire someone competent. The more you plan ahead, the more likely it is that you find a new employee with the right skills and cultural fit. Then, you will be able to let the more experienced person train their replacement. This will make the new hire more at ease with your company and their role, as well as ensure proper transition of ongoing projects and duties when the other person leaves.
Avoid mass knowledge outflow
Before your employee leaves (or anyone else does), make sure you put processes in place to help them share their experience with others, document it and save it for the future. Is your departing staffer very good at something peculiar? Is he or she the only person in the shop with a specific type of knowledge, whether it is replacing a certain part on a propeller plane, purchasing office supplies or sending a man to the moon?
Many companies make this mistake, especially when their staff retires. They don’t plan in advance and precious knowledge is lost when employees leave. Being forced to start from scratch is painful and expensive. It’s never too late to establish a knowledge management initiative to ensure important information is safely kept and made available through time. It’s mostly a matter of finding the right tool, setting standards and getting started. Why not start small today and then let your project snowball across the entire organization? If you’re new to change management initiatives, it might be good to have a look at some of our past posts on the subject.
Schedule one last “job interview”: the exit meeting
If they’re willingly quitting their job, plan an exit meeting and ensure all loose ends are tied; find out what clients are handled by this person, what deals they had in the pipeline, what projects are ongoing. Ensure all of that information is readily available in your CRM and company wiki/knowledge base, if you have one. If not, I urge you to consider putting something in place. There are plenty of inexpensive options available (this is also what we do at Crowdbase, feel free to check us out).
Listen with an open mind
This is an opportunity for you to try to understand what you or your company could’ve done better. Be open-minded – it’s always interesting to listen to the perspective of a disgruntled employee or of a departing one.
Since they are no longer required to be politically correct to keep their job, they have more freedom to discuss sensitive topics. They generally don’t have anything to lose by being honest, since they are leaving anyway! You might be surprised to learn things that you had no idea were going on! As you consider the situation from a different angle, you might also identify areas of possible improvement. You may end up shuffling responsibilities between teams, or even desks.
Aim for a respectful farewell
Unless your departing employee has broken every rule in the book or done something unforgivable, try to be positive and kind until the very end. You never know when you may work with that person again – as a colleague, partner or client. Sometimes, departures really can’t be helped, so why not ensure the relationship ends on good terms? It will personally position you as a mature leader, as well as reflect positively on your employer brand.
So there, you have it – a couple of tips to help you get through layoffs and departures. Have you got anything else to add to this list? What are the best practices in your field?